From time to time my computer starts to operate slower and slower. Programs don’t open as quickly as they ought, Zoom conferences cut in and out, and video clips halt for “buffering”. Often my computer woes can be solved by simply rebooting my system. I just shut down all the programs and power down my machine. Then when I restart I find that things are humming along smoothly again. Rebooting helps clear my computer of clutter that has kept it from working with maximum efficiency.

Period “rebootings” can be good for us as individuals as well as good for us as an organization. Essentially that’s what happens when a person takes a sabbatical – they shut down normal activities so that they can later power up and engage with fresh energy and perspective. In the “good old days” furlough served that purpose for missionaries. There were responsibilities for sure, but it provided a year free from normal missionary activity in preparation for returning to the field. Now with the pressure of support raising compressed into a shorter period, for many PD does not provide a reboot.

To varying degrees the Covid pandemic has shut us down individually and corporately from our normal activities. While we have managed to continue with some things remotely, other things have been put on hold until who knows when. It is an ideal time for us to reboot our lives and ministries. If we return to business as usual when/if this is over, then we have lost a good opportunity to clean out our systems in order to restart with fresh energy and focus. Over time our lives and ministries accumulate clutter that hinder our effectiveness and periodically needs to be cleared out.

It will be easy for to simply pick up where we left off and continue along the same path we had been traveling prior to the pandemic – much like pressing “pause” and then pressing “resume” to pick up exactly where we left off. For us to have a true reboot that changes our trajectory we will need to consciously reflect and identify the clutter that is bogging down the mission.

Andy Stanley, pastor of North Point Church in Atlanta, has challenged his staff to think through three questions as they reboot their ministries (Leadership podcast, 3 August 2020). 1) What should we never do again that we stopped doing because of Covid-19? 2) What should we start doing that we haven’t been doing but that we should begin doing now? 3) What have we learned during this time that we should carry with us into the future? They started processing through these questions before they started discussing the nitty gritty logistics of reopening their churches.

Those same questions can be helpful to us too, to ensure that we take advantage of the opportunity to reboot instead of simply pausing and then resuming. The questions can be asked at different levels – individually, as teams, as fields/Areas, and as an organization as a whole.

For example, here are some of the questions I’m asking myself or conclusions I’ve been drawing.

  • On a personal level – I’ve been to quick to accept travel invitations and need to be more strategically selective.
  • On a team level – my regular virtual check-ins with the missionary team leaders need to continue.
  • On an Area level – how do we help African churches to work collaboratively across national borders, instead of each of them having to reinvent the wheel – thinking specifically of missions mobilization and theological education?
  • On an organizational level – are we as an organization structured well to move into the emerging E2E era – everything from governance to mobilization to finances?

What about you? Are you rebooting or are you simply pausing? How would you answer these questions on the different levels?

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